New composition by Lucas Oickle: Shanghai Asterisms

Instrumentation: zheng, percussion, 2 erhu, zhonghu, cello
World premiere: Nov. 16, 2014 hatch Concert

This piece is my first attempt at writing for a Chinese ensemble of any sort. Structurally and technically, I chose to approach the instruments from my own western perspective and musical training, rather than attempt the impossible feat of writing authentic contemporary Chinese music. Idiomatically, of course, the pentatonic scale inherent to the zheng is unnatural to avoid, and in this way I tried to use the idiomatic qualities of the instruments in order to write what is (hopefully) effective music for them.

Abstractly, however, there is also an extra-musical programmatic basis behind this composition. I completed this piece while staying in Shanghai in the spring of 2014; Shanghai is a beautiful and culturally rich city, and Old Shanghai in particular captured my fascination. The brightness of this piece, the pentatonic basis, is a reflection of my admiration of Old Shanghai. The chromaticism, however, the occasional dissonances, reflect Shanghai’s current troubles – increasingly severe smog and pollution – which mar and conceal what still survives beneath it. The ending of this piece, however, represents my optimism that Shanghai can eventually overcome its current environmental issues.

About Lucas Oickle

Lucas Oickle

Lucas Oickle is a Nova Scotian composer currently based between Vancouver, Canada, and Greater Tokyo Area, Japan. His award-winning compositions and arrangements include The Great Firewall of China (TEMPO New Music Ensemble Spring 2013 Call for Scores – Winner); Amaranthus Caudatus II (12/13 Nova Scotia Kiwanis Festival Open Composition Class – Winner); Farewell to Nova Scotia (2014 Penthelia Singers Canadian Folk Song Arranging Contest – Winner); Asterism IV (Via Choralis Composition Competition 2014 – Winner); and most recently, Three Asterisms (Green Dot Journey – Atlantic Canada Region Winner). Lucas was also a composer-in-residence for the second annual Bathurst Chamber Festival (Bathurst, New Brunswick, 2014) and the “Featured Student Composer” of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra’s 12/13 season. His music has been read and workshopped by prestigious groups, including the Band of the Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Forces, Quartet New Generation Recorder Collective (Berlin, Germany), and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. In the spring of 2014, Lucas also received a Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarship to study Sundanese gamelan in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia.